Sunil Chhetri scored a brace as Bengaluru FC made their way into the knockout stages of the AFC Cup. A win by the odd goal in three (2-1), over Maldives club Maziya S&RC sees the Blues undefeated since the 10th of March.
Recent performers- CK Vineeth, Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Shankar Sampingiraj were all relegated to the bench. Sunil Chhetri, Robin Singh, Siam Hanghal and Keegan Pereira were included in the squad. From the outset, it seemed as though the reigning I League champions were playing for a massive win. 18 year old Udanta Singh made his first start in the AFC Cup.
Bengaluru dominate goalless first half
Given their star studded playing XI, it was not a surprise to see Bengaluru FC attacking the way they did. What was surprising however was the performance of young Udanta Singh. The 18 year old forward wrecked havoc as he gave the Maziya defenders a massive headache. In spite of finding it impossible to clear the ball out of their own half, the Maziya defensive personnel did a wonderful job to keep the dangerous Bengaluru strikers at bay.
The only significant chance for the Blues came with half an hour on the clock. An immaculate cross from the ever-present Rino Anto saw Robin Singh’s header denied by the crossbar. Udanta continued to cause problems for the home side, but to their credit, they held and ensured that the first half concluded 0-0.
Pablo Rodriguez opens scoring
The second half saw both sides attacking with a rejuvenated purpose. Despite Udanta still looking to give the defenders the slip, the Maziya attacking unit too were finding their feet. Shankar was introduced in a bid to add solidity to the midfield. While the Blues failed to find the back of the net in the first half, Maziya succeeded in unlocking the Bengaluru defence in the second half.
An inch perfect cross from full-back Samdhooh Mohamed saw Spaniard forward Pablo Rodriguez tap in the first goal on the hour mark.
The Sunil Chhetri show; BFC secure three points
Requiring a near miracle to come from behind in an away fixture, Westwood brought on the prolific Sean Rooney. The Aussie striker began in earnest as he linked up with the strike force to great effect. In fact, it was Rooney who presented Bengaluru with their first chance in the match. A handball from a Sean Rooney cross ensured that the Blues were awarded a penalty. Sunil Chhetri converted to give his side the equalizer.
Barely eight minutes later, Chhetri had his second. This time, it was the impressive Udanta Singh with the assist. A beautifully caressed chip from the teenager found skipper Sunil Chhetri. A volley from the latter meant that the Blues were on their way to the AFC Cup knockout stages.
While the Blues clawed their way into the AFC Cup knockout stages, the performance of Udanta Singh has raised a few eyebrows. This has been the best performance by the teenager in the BFC shirt by a country mile.